The One-Degree Error – Why Tennis Is So Difficult

Feb 15

You’ve probably heard and definitely experienced that tennis is a difficult sport.

Hitting a moving ball with a moving racquet while you are moving into a rather small target – assuming you’re not aiming in the middle of the court – is not that easy.

To really illustrate the point, ask yourself this question:

How much will you miss your intended target if your racquet’s angle is just one degree off?

This tennis infographic below will hopefully answer this questions and also tell you how accurate your timing must be and how you need to adjust your technique of hitting through the ball in order to avoid missing by so much.

tennis infographic

So next time when you miss the court by less than 41 cm (1.35 feet), know that you made an error of less than one degree on your racquet which was probably a result of mistiming your shot by less than one hundredth of a second.

Do you really need to get down on yourself after missing a shot or can you perhaps be more understanding see that it’s not always your fault but that the game of tennis is somewhat difficult…

P.S. If you know a physicist or a mathematician, please share this post them and ask them to contribute their thoughts to it.

(Note to webmasters: feel free to embed this infographic on your tennis blog and help your readers understand the difficulties of the game of tennis.)

Embed This Image On Your Site (copy code below):

11 comments

  1. Arturo Hernandez

    Tomaz,

    Great post!

    It is remarkable that people can hit the ball at all into such a small space given such great error. And yet people don’t miss by that much despite all these obstacles. This suggests that our ability to hit balls to very specified targets is difficult and that we must be extra careful when moving, hitting down the line or hitting very flat. So I guess tennis is all about building as much cushion as possible. My sense is that this margin is improved a lot by topspin and the use of newer materials in rackets and strings. I feel like the possibility of getting the ball in is much higher than it was 10 years ago and even higher than it was 20 years ago. Is that your sense? Arturo

    • Tomaz

      Hi Arturo,

      Yes, the new strings and lighter racquets make it possible to apply massive amounts of topspin and keep the ball in the court easier – but of course, one must work on accelerations a lot to achieve that.

    • Joe

      In addition the topspin, the margin of error is increased because the racket is not moving through the hitting zone like the hands of a clock. If the racket head is square to the ball for 6 inches then you don’t have to be perfect.

  2. Oscar Tanhueco

    Excellent, sound advice.

  3. steve

    HI Tomaz

    I find that the problem with playing tennis is this fixation with hitting the ball instead of watching the ball and being focused on having the racquet in the right place before you swing, watching where the ball is going, getting your body in the right position and have all your concentration on the contact point then get ready if the ball is coming back.

    • Tomaz

      No doubt, many more challenges besides finding the right angle of the racquet of course.

  4. Thanks Tomaz, very inspiring!

    I thought about the same but related to the serving motion.

    It could be interesting to show how much the up-spring from the trophy pose in order to meet the ball as high as possible would contribute to the chance of hitting inside the service box. Sharper/flatter service angle diminish you chances to hit the narrow space between the net and service line of your opponent. Higher contact point instantly gives bigger chances to hit right. Distance between your body vertical axis and the contact point changes the angle too.

    Wouldn’t it be interesting to show how much a cm shift of contact point (horizontal/vertical) contributes to chances of hitting an ace?

    Respectfully
    Misha

    • Tomaz

      Yes, Misha, that’s another interesting math equation that could help answer the question why so many serves end up in the net.

      Let me know when that’s posted on your blog. ;)

  5. Robert

    As I read through this I thought of the age-old advice to aim to give yourself a margin of about a yard or meter in from sidelines and the baseline. That accounts that degree of deviation plus some. And who said that Trig class wouldn’t come in handy in the future!

  6. Being that a very small deviation in racket head angle and/or timing error, can result in missing your target or even the entire court, you will start to appreciate the use of good technique, good practice, and many hours of competition as a way of playing more with your subconscious mind (getting in the zone) and less with your conscious or critical mind!!

    Rafael

  7. Thanks Tomaz!

    This is a phantastic argument for “trick your mind-” or “Inner Coaching-Drills”. I’ve posted your article on my blog innercoaching-blog.de. May be this is an addition to your article:
    http://www.tms-tennis.de/inner-coaching/?p=1285

    Greetings vom Germany,
    Frercks

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